Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Child by Fiona Barton

review by Maryom

When builders demolishing a row of houses find a buried baby's body it's barely worth a few lines in a newspaper - but three woman can't ignore them. For Emma, it brings back memories of something that she thought was long forgotten. For Angela, it's a reminder of the child she lost over forty years before. For Kate, it's the hint of a story that could be huge. 

With the help of her police contact, Bob Sparkes, journalist Kate is soon on the trail of Angela's missing baby. Left for a few minutes while Angela went to shower, baby Alice was taken from her cot in a maternity ward, and no further trace ever found. The police enquiry at the time came up with no leads and was eventually dropped. Is there an outside chance that this newly discovered baby could be Alice? Although she's carried the hope that one day her baby would be found, this would at least give Angela, a chance for closure. How, though, does Emma fit into the story? As a child and teenager she and her mother lived in the area now about to be demolished. She never knew her father, and left home while still young after arguments with, and about, her mother's new boyfriend, but something that happened in her teenage years has haunted her ever since. 

Fiona Barton's debut novel, The Widow, was a huge hit, and personally I think The Child is better - even though I'd guessed the plot twist quite early on, the writing had me hooked and I had to finish the story. Events unfold with alternating chapters told from the perspectives of the three main female characters, and occasionally the odd one from Emma's mother, Jude, and the reader gets to really see inside their heads - to share their hopes and fears - while being teased along by the gradual revealing of secrets.

Kate Waters, the journalist we were introduced to in The Widow, returns with more of a central role. Her police contact, Bob Sparkes, appears again, but his is more of a brief 'cameo', and I liked the way the emphasis of 'detecting' is moving from the police to a reporter (or perhaps two if apprentice Joe becomes a permanent fixture). There's nothing  that says crime, fictional crime at least, has to be solved by the police - Miss Marple is one of my all time favourite crime-busters, and the Annika Bengtzon series by Liza Marklund, which I love, has a reporter at the forefront of nosing out and solving a mystery. I hope Kate will remain at the centre of further stories in the series.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Penguin

Genre - adult crime fiction

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